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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Speaking of Chivalry or the "Leal Mon".

In Memory of

4th Bn., Seaforth Highlanders
who died age 26
on 23 March 1918
Son of the late Alexander and Helen MacKenzie.
Remembered with honour

 Graphic of miracle flight

Here are some interesting articles related to Chivalry and manhood.



Chivalry was present when Airbus A320 crashed on the Hudson. It was present in the person of the Captain Sullenberger, in the crew and in the passengers. [Chesley Sullenberger] “walked the plane twice after everyone else got off and tried to verify that there was nobody else on board. This pilot did a wonderful job," said Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York. The remarkable exploit of Captain Sully was the prefect example of a chivalrous hero who followed a manly code of ethics that puts DUTY and others –the Common Good- ahead of self at all times. Chivalry was present that cold April night in 1912 when the great ship the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank into the icy waters of the North Atlantic. A stunning statistic from the calamity reveals the ethos of the day: While seventy-four percent of the female passengers survived, only 20% of the men aboard the tragic luxury liner perished. The rule for the lifeboats: women and children first! I remember reading that Winston Churchill was once asked what he would do if the Soviets or the Nazis triumphed in the end; he said he would prefer not to survive in such a world. There are things, in other words, worse than death. If civility, right and wrong, family, faith and chivalry were to die then I, too, would prefer not to survive to endure such a world. Chivalry might be down but it is not out.

Women and children first are indicative of a belief and hope in the future of family, society, country, faith and civilization. It is recognition that men are expendable in extremis. Women, mothers and children are the future. “Women and children first” is not just a time-worn phrase. It bespeaks, honor, fidelity and chivalry - a higher consciousness- one nurtured by the great legacy of Western Civilization, itself a product of Judeo-Christian religious thought and norms of Right and Wrong developed over centuries. Unfortunately, these virtues contend with powerful, often destructive influences from a hedonistic popular culture in the movies, Las Vegas, rock music, television, sports that bombard us with outrageously sexual images of men and women that are not just inappropriate but exploitative even perverse, pornographic and degenerate.

There is no question I am of the Old School. I was raised to be a Highland Gentleman what Walter Scott called a “Doonie Wassal” (Dhuine-uasal Gàidhealach). (As I write I listen to FLOWERS OF THE FOREST a tune and song I must have heard in the womb). Such songs like this or KELVIN GROVE or the NAMELESS LASSIE or RIBHINN CHOIBHNEIL (The Kindly Lassie) which put me at one with the many past events: round the old Baldwin Hamilton upright singing with my mother and sisters as the old folk listened, St. Mungo Cathedral January 14, 2005, the Edinburgh Tattoo in 2000 and 1967, The Park Bar (in Glasgow) and Kelvin Grove in 1967,2000 and 2005, Kearny High School Auditorium 1975, Madison Square Garden 1959 (we never went to basketball games but to see the tattoos of Highland Regiments particularly the Black Watch and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.)

Sing on, sing mair o' thae auld sangs, {SING MORE OF THE OLD SONGS)
For ilka ane can tell {FOR EACH ONE CAN TELL
0' joy or sorrow i' the past {OF JOY OR SORROW IN THE PAST
Where mem'ry lo'es to dwell, {WHERE MEMORY LOVES TO DWELL}

Victorian literature, classical literature, the Bible, traditional Christian prayers and practices were very strong in my family and quite literarily a part of every day life. Growing up as a boy I never remember a single day without books being opened, poems recited, music being played and songs being song though not the songs popular of the time. My son is still astonished that I don’t know the popular music of the 1950’s or 1960’s –supposedly my time- I know the music of the 1850’s and pre-1919 Britain and Europe especially. Naturally, I had heard of Elvis Presley but unless he was singing hymns or traditional music I simply had no interest. I preferred Broadway musicals, opera, classical music and traditional music which seemed much richer linguistically and intellectually to the immature yelpings and banging about of pop and rock music.

My father, in particular, was a model of gentlemanly behavior and what the Greeks called sophrosyne (moderation). He rarely drank anything but wine or sherry. I never saw him intoxicated though he admitted to me he had had his moments of great Celtic exhuberance –V-J day for example. I loved and admired my Auld Pop for his kindness and virtues but temperance was not one of his virtues. I think he tried to drink to kill the pain and loneliness of having survived two world wars unlike almost all of his friends and comrades in arms. Nonetheless he was a mild-mannered gentleman and was always tender with children and women though literally ready to lay down his life to protect those he loved. When he was occupied reading to his grandchildren or teaching them he was too occupied and responsible to drink. He was a ‘leal mon’. In fact, he saved my life when I was an infant, a story that my sisters and parents recounted to me. Perhaps this was the beginning of the great bond of love we had and still have. He had tremendous strength and physical courage and throughout his long life he risked his life many times to save his friends and comrades in arms. He was awarded the Military Medal for courage at 2nd Ypres and it was said he and his comrades would have earned the Victoria Cross except for the fact that there were no officers to document their heroism. The Dins (Indian Soldiers) called him “Changa Dost” (the good comrade) because he would bring back wounded Indian soldiers just the same as wounded Scottish soldiers, most notably Captain Sandy MacKenzie, ASH (later Seaforth Highlanders). Major MacKenzie was critically wounded in the Struma Valley and unable to make it back to allied lines but Auld Pop tended to his wounds, nursed him and carried him on his back for hours bringing him to the aid station. He invalided out of the service but reenlisted during the crisis of 1918 and tragically was killed in France. That was heartbreaking to the men he had led and who thought he had made it back to “Old Blighty” safe and sound. Sandy MacKenzie was only 26.MacKenzie is listed as a Captain in the Commonwealth war graves records but I was told that Captain MacKenzie was posthumously promoted to Major. I have a gold watch his widow gave to my grandfather in 1919.

NE OBLIVISCARIS (do not forget).

I have not achieved much in this life –I am just a humble schoolmaster- but I have not been guilty of cruelty, neglect or abuse of elders, children or women and I have tried to be a guiding parent and a loyal and faithful husband to my wife. A good conscience is my only reward of a chivalrous gentleman. There have been many times when I think, indeed, I am the “last of the Mohicans” but I think of what Chivalry is and think it is worthy to speak of and to teach others by word and by example.

John Stuart Mill said:

“Though the practice of chivalry fell even more sadly short of its theoretic standard than practice generally falls below theory, it remains one of the most precious monuments of the moral history of our race, as a remarkable instance of a concerted and organized attempt by a most disorganized and distracted society, to raise up and carry into practice a moral ideal greatly in advance of its social condition and institutions; so much so as to have been completely frustrated in the main object, yet never entirely inefficacious, and which has left a most sensible, and for the most part a highly valuable impress on the ideas and feelings of all subsequent times. “

Chivalry spells out certain ethical standards that foster the development of manhood. Politeness and deference towards others, especially women, children and elders is the mark of a gentleman. The virtues of chivalry offer more, however, than mere pleasantries and politeness. They were, are and remain beautiful and noble ideals! They should appeal to the true man. They give purpose and meaning to male strength, and therefore support the overall workings of society for the Common Good. We admire men who are strong, but if their strength is not directed to uphold what is good, honest and just, what value does it have? The SS were strong but they were evil. The Marines I served with were men of honor but I am sure they were every bit the fighting men the toughest SS men were. Chivalrous gentlemen are called to use their strength to defend those who cannot defend themselves, and commit themselves to just causes.

Nothing is more unmanly, in my opinion, and petty, than delighting in scandal and gossip. Not only do you harm those who are victims of gossip, you harm yourself as well. How? By becoming a creature who is unloving. It is wrong to delight in the guilt or suffering of others, or to feed the flames of scandal, a major occupation of nightly television. I am interested in the news of the day but I turn off gossip about so-called celebrities, murdered wives and children. I usually am the last one in the school to know that so and so was cheating on so and so. I simply have no interest in the private sexual lives or preferences of my colleagues. We talk about students, the political and cultural affairs of the day, literature and sometimes sports or our families. I don’t talk a lot about TV because, I must admit, I am not with it when it comes to the latest TV show. I do talk about movies because I love movies particularly classic movies but week after week I look at what is in the cinemas and really I have no interest. Once again, I have more in common with people who are married and have children so I tend to socialize with them though I certainly don’t ignore younger single teachers.

Men ought to be courteous and polite to others, generous helpmates to their wives and elders in their family, their faith community, their social world and their country. My mother, who was a model of Caritas (Christian love), used to say: “God made us strong only for short while so that we can help others.” A man, in my opinion, should never neglect his home or his family duties and should do his best at his work –if not for himself then to provide for his loved ones.

What are the virtues a man -a “leal mon” should have? . Above all he must have integrity or display that the Greeks called “alethic” virtue. Truth must be important to a real man.

One must avoid the temptation to shade the truth, boast or lie, especially to those we love. Sometimes honesty requires us to say things that seem blunt or harsh but a measure of tact, gentleness and a humble, loving approach can take the sting out of honest criticism. He must be honest and share with his children the personal value integrity, modesty, chastity, faithfulness, patriotism, motherhood and faith has for him.

I always tell my catechists that there were times in my life when I did not go to Mass as often as I should have but I never lied about to anyone especially my mother. When she called me up to ask if I had gone to Mass I could never bring myself to lie to her and I promised I would not neglect my obligation. But I also tell them that as the years go on I really enjoy going to Mass and really miss it if I don’t go. For it is when I am at Mass –and when I am singing- that I am closest with my dear departed ones.

A man must courageous but be gentle to the weak and with a strong sense of justice which means having gratitude, displaying mercy and being generous. He must have respect for his marriage partner for life. The word respect comes from the Latin “respicere” meaning “to look at”; one does not ignore others; one looks at them with respect and worth with all their assets and weaknesses. He must be humble enough to laugh at himself and at the world. Humility means an extreme awareness of the limits of all virtue and of one’s own limits as well. Not all can be done and not all can be known. Scott wrote that “true genius of the highest class is always humble.” Men are beings of the earth (humus in Latin whence humility). In my experience the most generous people are also the most humble. Wherever there is humility, says St. Augustine, there is also Charity.” I believe the Gael of old –before the Saints and Scholars and the Greeks hardly knew humility as they did not know mercy or charity. Aristotle did not seem to recognize this virtue in his Nichomachean Ethics.

A man, must be, faithful and loyal to those he loves. This is the essence of being a “true man” a “leal mon”. If we want to grasp the essence of martial fidelity we need to understand what makes a married couple a married couple. I dislike the term “couple” or ‘”significant other” very much. My uncle Jos –a very frank and sometimes brutal man less gentlemanly than my father- was fond of the term “concubine” which if you think of it is just a fancy word for bed-companion or a “piece of ass.” One would think a woman would aspire to more than being the “squeeze” of the moment. But it is quite true English sometimes lacks the proper vocabulary of love and marriage it seems to me as compared to French, Spanish or Greek.

The highest compliment my Auld Pop could give a man was to call him a “leal mon a goodjin” (a loyal man a thorough good person someone you count on to the death and I mean to the death.) If you could not be counted on to the death in all circumstances to behave with honor , fidelity and courage you were not a ‘leal mon.” (the Highland word is dileas meaning faithful, loyal, loving, trusted)

A good man to Auld Pop was simply a man who would not forsake “his lass nor his brother in arms”.
A man of justice and courage who would never turn his back to his friend or in the face of the enemy.
That was what was a “leal mon,”

The concept is analogus to what the Jews would call a “mensch” (a man of integrity and honor) or the Spanish would call (un hombre de bien) Leon Rosten defined a ‘mensch” as . “Someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous. “ There is no question in my mind that there is such a thing as “leal mon” and it is an ideal I hope my son always follows.

But for the sake of this short commentary I will use the world man or true man as the synonym for “leal mon’, mensch or hombre de Loyalty denotes a relationship that is based on truth and commitment. If we are fortunate, we have companions who are loyal to us—but we must be loyal to others and other things as well. I have always tried to be loyal to my school as my grandfather was to his Regiment and I was to the Marines. Remember, loyalty is a virtue to cultivate, even when it is not reciprocated.

To me fidelity –fidelity to what is good and true- is one of the highest virtues. Fidelity is faithful love to love and through love. We owe fidelity to selfless courage, to suffering, to the blood of martyrs and heroes, to sacrifice, to endurance and to love.

“Remember the people you came from” is a call for giving your forefolk their just due and, I believe gives one a stronger identity.

According to Montaigne in fidelity lies the true basis of personal identity: “The foundation of my being and identity is purely moral; it consists in the fidelity to the faith I swore myself….I take the responsibility of a certain past as MY OWN, and because I intend to recognize my present commitment as still my own in the future.”.

The past is no more ; the future is still to come. The past is in need of our compassion and gratitude; for the past cannot stand up for itself. Such is the duty of memory: compassion and gratitude for the past. Yet in the face of oblivion there is memory. This fragility is the essence of mind, which no less mortal than we, is yet alive within us, as mind in remembering its mortality.

Once again I prefer the Spanish here over English because it distinguishes clearly between an ephemeral hook up and un matriomonio which is one thing: husband-and-wife. Gaelic also has one word for married couple and that is ‘caraid’ which also means a pair (or twins).

There is no question in my mind that when it came to the importance of fidelity in marriage my Spanish wife and I had completely the same culture of fidelity and sincerity. Even though I was an American –it was more important that I was the son of Scottish Catholic and a devout Christian mother –an Islander of the Free Church tradition- because it meant I shared with my Spanish fiancée the common values of the Old Europe or Christendom.

There is no question in my mind so many Irishmen and Highlanders in particular marry Europeans such as Poles, Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards because they feel closeness to those cultures than many English –being highly secularized- simply do not feel. There is no question that Rome and Jerusalem were more important to us than London –a place where no one in my family ever lived or had any special allegiance to.

People often express surprise that I never married a Scottish or Irish girl (I dated a few point of fact) but the simple fact is most of the British or Scottish girls I met were very secular, progressive and left wing even anti-American. Even many of the Irish-American New Yorkers I met were far too avant guarde for me and few were serious Catholics.

By contrast, the Italians I knew and the Spaniards and Cubans I knew were pro-American and held traditional values very similar to mine. There is no question that for me, it was in the cards I would marry someone devoutly Christian who had strong family based values. Marrying someone in my faith and who shared my faith was far more important to me than marrying someone of my parent’s nationality or my nationality. Sharing the faith of your spouse is an important foundation in maintaining fidelity in the marriage.

Mere sexual congress, how often repeated, is, it should be obvious, is insufficient to create a bond of fidelity. Most men, I know would do anything to have (to speak bluntly) “a piece of ass”. I believe mere cohabitation, however lasting, is not true fidelity.

A man who pledges his love and protection to a woman wants her to have the honor and protection of sharing his name, his children, his home, his property and the support and love of his entire family for her sake and for sake of the children. The passion of deep sexual attraction must be in a serious heterosexual relationship at some time but this intense passion cannot last except in memory. No married couple could ever last without this kind of fidelity of each spouse to his shared history, which is a mixture of trust and gratitude that makes a married couple happy. This kind of love, which we observed in our parents who were married 59 ½ years and separated only by war and death, is more moving and impressive than the narrow love of Hugh Heffner or even the pure passionate love of young lovers. To me this kind of fidelity is more precious than any other kind.

There is no such thing as an ‘open marriage’ and divorce is a great betrayal of fidelity. I consider myself very lucky to have avoided the scourge of divorce. My Auld Pop always emphasized there was no word for divorce in his language –one was separated by war or death only. When I asked him, as a small boy, what this divorce was –it seemed to me something very sad , perhaps a form of torture , like tormenting Christ with spears- and he answered somewhat ironically, “Dinna fash yersel’ (bother) about THAT; it’s something they do in America!” To which of course I protested we WERE living in America and he replied, “Aye, but that dinna mean we have to pick up their bad habits.”

One of my uncles married an American born girl and she divorced him, after just a few years and two children, in a most savage, cruel and selfish fashion. But my uncle , a very religious man, treated her with respect long after the divorce, picking her up at the airport, putting chains on her tires in the snow even lending her money. He explained to me that “in the eyes of God we are still married.” He never spoke ill of his ex-wife and he had ample cause to do so. THAT is fidelity. I tried to learn from my Uncle’s mistake. He got talked into marriage by his mother and the woman who turned him down several years before but then found out he was the best prospect she had met. So before she lost her looks and figure –she was pushing 30- she wrote to his mother to find out where he was –he was stationed in Germany at the time- and basically threw herself at him and he fell for the bait. It is good advice never to marry someone who tries to win over your parents more than you. It is also good advice never to go back to someone who “dumps” you and then has “second thoughts.” In my opinion, one cannot trust the fidelity of such a person. “Better to have loved and lost than never have love at all, “ was a saying I heard my Uncle say many times. His wife came to his funeral –he is buried in Arlington Cemetery- and told me that my uncle was better husband than she was a wife. By then she was an old, stout lonely woman well past middle age and nothing like the angry avant guarde confident feminist I had met thirty years before. She had a chance of fidelity and she threw it away. I think she regretted it. She must have known she sinned gravely against the duties of married life and betrayed a trust. She probably never did love my uncle and so did not respect him either. In my opinion, she was a terrible example for her children. How can one swear to love somebody forever and love no one else as husband and wife? If the love dies what’s the point –some people might say- of maintaining the fiction and responsibilities and demands of it? Some people seem to say “I will not love you forever but I will be grateful that we shared love for a while.” That is more than nothing but it is not fidelity. It says love me for a long as you want to –as long as I am young and physically attractive or successful- but then ditch me when something younger or better rolls along. That kind of attitude must be something but it is not fidelity.

There are at least six reasons NOT TO MARRY (a gentleman thinks of such things for himself , his charges and his friends).

#1 Don’t marry someone you don’t really know. If you are pressured to rush to the altar as my Uncle Norman was you have to ask yourself. “What is the reason for the rush?” If he or she truly cares they will give you time to be sure.

#2 Don’t every marry someone you don’t like or have anything in common with BESIDES sex and physical attraction. Everyone I have ever known married someone with whom he or she felt a strong sexual attraction. I could be wrong but this is the easiest part of a relationship. Speaking as a man most women 16 to 60 are sexually attractive at some point in their lives. Once again, speaking from personal experience, most women hit their peak attractiveness from age 25 to about 42. Most women, just like most men, unless they work very hard at it, start to lose the battle of the bulge in their 40’s. Once again, perhaps it is just me, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. If I compare the looks of my friend’s wives who are excessively thin they seem more pinched, more wrinkled and less attractive with each passing year. Other women, with a more matronly look, remain very pleasant to be with and to look at. Some women are astonishingly beautiful for a short period of time and others have a high lifetime batting average and remain attractive for a longer period of time. There is such a thing as growing old gracefully. I can think of nothing more hideous and ridiculous for a 60 year old woman trying to dress like a 19 year old virgin. I once had a chance to meet the opera singer Beverly Sills. She had a wonderful smile and personality. She was a very attractive woman but no one would ever say that she was girlish or thin. She merely looked her age and looked good at it. By contrast I met Eleanor Parker in 1976 –one of Hollywood’s great beauties of the 1940’s and 1950’s now most famous for the role of the forty something Countess in The Sound of Music. She was getting ready for the previews of a rival of Pal Joey. She looked ghastly. She had obviously had one facelift or several and her face was so taut she could hardly smile or make any expression whatsoever. Miss Parker was overweight but less so than Beverly Sills but she was obviously wearing a tight dress one or two sizes too small for her. She could hardly walk it was so tight. The story was the managing director of the Circle in the Square Theater told her to get in her costume or she was fired. I think he knew she COULDN’ T get IN her costume. He must have also been shocked at her appearance as well and must have felt he wasn’t losing anything by firing her. She had obviously lost her looks. But the point is Beverely Sills and Eleanor Parker were both about the same age (in their 50’s) but Beverley Sills still looked like Beverley Sills; Eleanor Parker looked like a zombie with a mask. She was almost unrecognizable. Anyway Eleanor Parker was fired and I never saw her performance. The bottom line is if you can’t respect the behavior, habits and values of your potential mate, rethink the situation. What will it be like with this person once the haze of romantic love fades? Could you love your wife (once again, speaking as a man) if she lost her size 6 figure? Let’s face it multiple pregnancies and the years usually wreak havoc with a woman’s figure. And time does not remain still for any of us in any case. It is a mistake to marry for beauty alone, a very big mistake.

#3 If the people around you who know you well and love you –your parents, siblings, close relatives, teachers, and wise friends- are counseling you against marriage to a certain person, you must pause. Although they don’t know your potential spouse as well as you do, they are not as emotionally mixed up as you are by the strong sexual attraction or romantic feeling you have for that other person. This is particularly true if the couple is sexually active. Nothing fools you that you have to have your spouse like an active sex life before marriage. I wonder what purpose a honeymoon serves for people like that. And why even wear white? But if people around you are expressing doubts you should at least give yourself some time to think about what you are doing. Imagine, for example, if your spouse had no money, lost all of his or her teeth and gained 100 pounds. My father always said to me that I should look at the mother of the potential bride because it was a reasonable indication of what the daughter would look like in 25 or 30 years with 25, 30 or 50 additional pounds. I would add another proviso too. I don’t think it is important to marry for money and position. I think marrying for personal happiness and family reasons are the most important. But that having been said there is something one should always consider. It is one thing to marry someone who has next to no money but it is another to marry someone with extravagant tastes and $50,000 in debt!!!! Most marriages fall apart for two basic reasons: lack of sexual compatibility and financial distress.

#4 building upon that last point. Never marry anyone in whom there are signs of unstable behavior. If you beloved needs to be drunk or high to have a good time, I think it is a serious cause to worry. If he or she can never hold down any kind of job at all in the last few years find out why. Can’t he or she get along with the boss or with coworkers.. Is the discipline of work too much for him or her? Once again, I have never been a great success in life but I have always worked. I worked my way up from being a laborer in construction and unloading rail cars to sales, to being a bank employee, then finally a Community College instructor and high school teacher. No one has ever asked me for me resume or offered me a job but I have always been respected as someone who was a hard worker, honest and loyal.

#5 A lastly to reiterate a point mentioned before if your primary drive for getting married is an overpowering urge to have –or continue to have –sex with this person, STOP. Sex is important for a good marriage but sex is NOT love. It is absurd to overvalue physical love. Speaking as a man, men are beasts and I think it is true to say, that in the dark, as has been said, women are all the same if that’s all you want from a woman. But once again that is not love. Real love is sharing laughter, sharing experience, sharing children, sharing affection, trust. Physical love (eros) can provide the spark and the glue for the beginning of a relationship but it cannot provide the substances. Being in love and having love in a marriage is something other and something more than being sexually aroused. Not all desire is love though it may always be lust. The desire for a woman period might just be lust but the desire for a specific woman is another. Some people say this is love too but I do not ; love that is merely transitory and sexual is not love merely as Anthony Burgess called it in A Clockwork Orange, “the old in and out”.

Nonetheless, alienation of affections is one of the primary reasons marriage fail. They say the French (the elite anyway) have their solution –it seems horrible to me and contrary to fidelity and honesty- a man keeps his lover and his wife separately. That is to say one has (presumably young, thin and attractive) temporary lover and a permanent mother-manager. Virtual bigamy or polygamy you might call it. It seems like a bore to me. If you wife is your partner and best friend don’t you want to spend as much time as possible with your best friend? But there is no question, however, the issue of extramarital sex is present in many marriages. Once again, speaking as a man, one must avoid excessive temptations and exercise self-control. Most of my women friends are safely married or far away. I never pretend to be unmarried and do not socialize with younger unmarried women. It seems to me Lotharios must neglect their families, their work or their intellectual life because if one is dedicated to those things one simply has no time to roll up ephemeral sexual contests. Once –just once- while I was studying at UVA I went to a spaghetti dinner at the Catholic parish in the university. What a mistake! The participants were overwhelmingly young women in their early to mid 20’s. I was in my late 40’s at the time. I was very polite but I did not stick around and I never took the bus to that church again. If I am alone I make sure I go to early Mass. Sometimes when I am alone on a business trip or home alone I may have a conversation at restaurant or bar with a younger woman –a college student for example- but only in an avuncular fashion. I can’t understand teachers who want to date their students. Of course, I love my students and want to best for them but because I love them I want to do them no harm. I am there to teach them not to seduce them or abuse them.

#6 Never get married because you feel you have to or everyone else is getting married. It is chivalry to treat your date with respect. It is foolishness to marry someone because OOPS she says she is pregnant. I have known friends who married their pregnant girl friends but did not know if they were the father. That is no way to start a marriage. Once again fidelity and trust are the basis of any good relationship.

In choosing this unique person for our mate, this combination of history and charm, this merging of flesh and soul, we are looking for a lifetime of love that will sustain us. If we are wise we will come to understand that genuine love is not a free gift but an earned achievement. Perhaps we catch love when it comes our way like a fever or virus; I do not know. But I do know this true love is based on fidelity and it is up to us to learn how to grow in love.

A marriage, or matriomonio presupposes love and duration. My father knew Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 by heart and I often heard his collection of Roland Colman recordings of the Sonnets. As a small boy it was made clear to me that Shakespeare was almost as authoritative as the Bible or Burns and there is no question it was an important part of my education as man or gentleman. He also made it clear to me how much he loved my mother. And let me say that my Auld Pop was widowed never talked about any other woman except his wife. She was so talked about and so quoted by my father and mother and grandfather that I almost came to think as if I had known her myself though she died almost twenty years before I was born. That is fidelity –to love someone who gave you so much love during your life that you never forget that person. Certainly love of that kind is a selfless love because the dead cannot do anything for you themselves except perhaps connect to you in communuion and comfort you through their souls and memory.

One of our favorite modern movies is Sense and Sensibility which uses this poem to show Marianne Dashwood’s conceptions of love. Ah, yes, love’s not Time’s fool:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

I have been called a hopeless romantic but to that charge I say romantic Highlanders have more fun and sing the best love songs because they know what chivalry and love is all about. As Burns sang “Gae seek your pleasures where you will etc.”

Chivalry speaks about romantic love and Highland Gentleman know about and care about romantic love and fidelity. They also know “modesty is the true beauty of woman”’; in other words modesty and chastity are sexy and very desirable. People today have lots of sex –or at least they boast about it- but they find relationships flat and devoid of romantic love. That is because Eros-love (sex) promises more than it can deliver, especially in regards to companionship, trust and permanence.

Why? Because we perceive romantic love as something spontaneous, something that does not demand work patience and a strong moral base. The wisdom, literature and songs of our forefolk tell us something that is quite the opposite. The very essence of romantic love, true love is commitment. This is where, in my opinion, chivalry provides a vital ingredient. Love relationships provide the laboratory where the virtues of chivalry are tested to their fullest, and the manliness of a “leal mon” is proved. With time and fidelity true love grows and true love not only stimulates the best in us but it is a recipe for happiness and love that can last a lifetime –and beyond.

Aye. “S truth I am telling ye!”

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